May 16, 2023

Reducing Sand Casting Lead Times and Costs with Hybrid 3D Printing

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The sand casting process has undergone dramatic changes in recent years thanks to the benefits and advantages offered by 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM). Rest assured, sand casting practitioners and traditional casting companies will not go out of business because of 3D printing. Instead, AM can assist the traditional sand casting process, making it faster, more cost-efficient, and more agile.

Even with the use of 3D printing, the fundamental sand casting methodology remains largely the same:

The only step in this traditional process that changes as a result of 3D printing is how the actual replica or pattern and core equipment are fabricated.

The traditional method for fabricating patterns uses subtractive manufacturing technologies such as CNC milling of metal or plastic basic shapes. These processes manipulate a block of material into the desired shape by selectively removing unwanted material using machine tools.

By contrast, the AM process starts from nothing and adds only the material required, layer-by-layer within a build volume or build platform. The additive technology process delivers parts in a wide range of polymers, including standard thermoplastics, thermosets, filled and photopolymer resins, and even metals.

3D printing of casting patterns is recommended over traditional manufacturing in certain use cases:

There is a wide number and range of 3D printing technologies including binder jetting sands/metals, powder bed laser/EBM, SLA polymer/ceramic, filament extrusion, and [pellet extrusion. Factors such as part geometry, pattern size, and material requirements should be considered in selecting the best technology for sand casting pattern equipment. A large format 3D printer will serve the larger size requirement of many sand casting patterns. For example, direct pellet-fed 3D printing enables the use of a wide range of materials with deposition rates up to 10X higher than filament 3D printing. Additionally, pellet material costs are up to 10X lower than filament, which makes pellet extrusion a cost-effective alternative to subtractive technologies.

While 3D printing technologies bring significant advantages to the casting process on their own, there are several advantages for sand casting applications when combining additive and subtractive into a hybrid platform. For example, each of these key methods — pellet extrusion, filament extrusion, and spindle subtractive tooling — have advantages and limitations when considered in isolation. However, when combined in a hybrid platform solution, all the benefits can be realized without limitations.

To help illustrate the effectiveness of a hybrid platform for sand casting applications, we can explore a real-world use case. Proveedora de Servicios y Suministros Industriales (PSSI) wanted to employ additive manufacturing to reduce the cost of manufacturing pattern equipment while compressing time. Their target was to reduce both time and cost by 50% while maintaining pattern dimensional quality.

Utilizing a hybrid platform, in this case, a Titan pellet extrusion 3D printer, PSSI was able to eliminate wood assembly and machining of typical wood pattern equipment. Unlike a CNC machine, the Titan 3D printer does not require continual labor to operate the equipment, thus enabling lights-out manufacturing and reducing time by more than 60% — from seven weeks down to two and a half weeks — while lowering total cost. Additionally, the material selected, PETG, not only has better durability than wood but has equivalent benching properties for final post-processing. This yields a faster, lower cost near net shape solution directly off the printer. Alonso Alvarez, CEO, PSSI has said, “3D Printing has helped us accelerate our manufacturing process of our products due to our confidence we have for the 3D printer to work 24/7 without the need for special care during printing.”

Completed Pump Component Pattern and Coreboxes (Photo courtesy of Proveedora de Servicios y Suministros Industriales)

Regardless of the additive manufacturing technology used to produce sand casting patterns, there are some important tips to keep in mind.

By integrating additive manufacturing into the sand casting process, foundries and pattern shops are becoming more agile and competitive, bringing high-quality castings to market faster and at a lower price point compared to traditional methods.

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Share this ArticleSubtractive patterns versus additive manufacturing patternsReverse engineering old, worn-out pattern equipmentWhen alloys for a casting design changeFast lead time is of the essenceMultiple iterations, constant adjustments, or significant adjustments of the pattern equipment are requiredLower volume complex core castingsNot all 3D printing technologies are the sameFor sand casting patterns with improved surface finish:For solvent resistance and chemical sand resistance:For low wear, high throughput patterns using stronger polymers:Tagged with:Share this Article